“We were all taught the same thing. It would be selfish of us to not help him. He could go on to be, whatever, the best player to ever play the game — but it’s up to us to make him fit in.”
Werth has a lot in common with Harper. He’s a former first-round pick and a former catcher. But his path to the major leagues, and to starring in them, was anything but direct. He made sure Harper knew his vaunted road didn’t make him any different.
“He was, in his own way, trying to give him that tough-love type of thing and, ‘You’ve got to earn this, kid,’ ” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “And as the year went by and he came back this spring training, it was a much more of a mentorship.”
Harper’s seen the space above his locker feature monikers such as Joe Namath and Roy Hobbs. In spring training this year, Werth got a duplicate of his own nameplate and slotted it into an empty stall beside Harper‘s. The message was simple: No rookie gets two lockers.
This is not a new process.
“I had to do the same things as everybody else does, too,” Braun recalled. “I sang on the bus, I carried the beer, all those things.”
“For me, if you’re part of the team and you’re helping the team win, that’s a lot different than being some kid in big-league camp in spring training,” Werth said. “You’ve got to respect the way he plays the game, and you’ve got to respect the player that he is. But he has to respect the game the right way and continue to play the right way to continue to gain our respect.
“He’s got a lot to learn and he’s got a long way to go, but my dad always told me that it takes no talent to hustle. Those are words to live by. So far Bryce has done a great job doing that.”
There are times, though, when it gets exhausting being “Bryce Harper, future face of baseball.”
A week ago, Harper talked about how excited he was to go home to Las Vegas and just be “Bryce” for a few days. Instead he found himself staring into cameras and recorders four rows deep at All-Star media day. At one point, his face reddened from the heat of the lights, Harper turned to his right, clenched his teeth and broke into an overwhelmed smile.
When he has those moments with the Nationals, one of their veterans has been there to help. Ankiel, especially, has tried to impart to Harper the importance of enjoying the moment he’s in when he’s in it. While Harper has made a concerted effort to tone down some of his actions on the field and learn to deal with failure more appropriately, he’s also tried to enjoy what’s happening in life — and know it’s OK to still act like he’s 19 every now and then.View Entire Story
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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